For the past three, nearly four seasons now, I have worked for a fermented foods vendor – Number One Sons – at local farmers markets in Maryland, DC and Virginia. Our bread and butter, pun intended, are cucumber pickles, but we only have those during cucumber season, so in the winter and early spring months we sell daikon pickles — super crunchy and yummy! Year round, we sell kombucha, the champagne of teas, sauerkraut and kimchi. There is something for everyone at the pickle stand – sweet, spicy, sour and tart.
At least once a market, someone will say to me, “I know this stuff is good for me, but where should I start?” My answers always varies from customer to customer for multiple reasons, but we all have different tastes, preferences and a unique gut micobiomes. Probiotics are the “good” bacteria or live cultures in your gut. The benefits of probiotics can vary – some help restore gut flora and other help with digestion, act as an anti-inflammatory and boost your immune system. NOTE: The FDA has not approved any probiotic product for preventing any health issue yet, but there is more and more search coming out that points to the benefits of including probiotics into your daily intake.
Photo Credit: thinkstock
For my perspective, I can really tell a difference when I am consuming more “good” bacteria, with the combination of prebiotics – the fuel for the probiotics to do their thing. I was diagnosed with a digestive disease over 10 years ago now, so beyond the medications I take to reduce inflammation in my gut, I started introducing more natural probiotics into my diet, such as vegetable ferments, kimchi, saukraut and kombucha. This has really made a difference for me and has allowed me to add a source of probiotics through adjusting my meals and adding new foods/drinks to my diet as opposed to adding another pill into my daily regimen.
Another note that I make to friends and pickle stand customers with probiotics is to start small. Snack on a few full sour pickles during the week, introduce a shot of kombucha a day or cut it with water, add a serving of sauerkraut or kimchi as a side, on top of a salad, bowl or soup, or even consider trying a grilled cheese or veggie sandwich with kimchi or sauerkraut – so amazing! I also suggest adding probiotics into your meals at the beginning and/or end of your day, to help with the natural processes of your gut.
Other than food and diet choices, a few other lifestyle choices can also help your gut microbiome (via the June issue of Cooking Light – Special Gut Health Issue):
- Get Moving = In general, exercise is always linked to a healthier lifestyle, but exercise can help to prevent inflammation and improve the health of your gut.
- Soak Up the Sun = Vitamin D can also help your gut by helping to create an optimal environment for good bacteria to flourish in your gut.
- Adopt a Furry Friend = Studies have shown that good-for-your-gut bacteria was richer and more diverse in children that had a pet when they were in the womb and after birth.
We can’t forget about prebiotics too! The good bacteria in your gut thrives on fiber-rich foods such as fruits, veggies and whole grains. Be sure to have a diet rich in these items in order to help provide fuel for the probiotics – fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, sourdough bread and yogurt. Prebiotics and probiotics work together to help your digestion, immunity and even your mood!
Photo Credit: Fermented food from Dr. David Williams
Below is a recipe that incorporates pre and probiotics (from Cooking Light)
Kale Salad with Spiced Chickpeas and Berries
Active Time: 10 Mins
Total Time: 10 Mins
Yield: Serves 1 (serving size: about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups torn stemmed lacinato kale (about 2 oz.)
1/2 cup half-moon English cucumber slices
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/3 cup Smoky Roasted Chickpeas
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped unsalted roasted almonds
- Whisk together olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl.
- Add kale, and massage gently until kale is lightly wilted.
- Add cucumber, raspberries, strawberries, and bell pepper; toss well to coat.
- Arrange salad on a plate; top with Smoky Roasted Chickpeas and almonds.
Calories 492 Fat 31g Satfat 4g Unsatfat 25g Protein 13g Carbohydrate 44g Fiber 15g Sugars 12g Added sugars 0g Sodium 669mg Calcium 19% DV Potassium 25% DV
Shakes are a great way to get pre and probiotics! In this recipe below, the prebiotics are bananas, apple cider vinegar, honey, and Acacia gum, or gum Arabic, is a natural gum, made of the hardened sap of African acacia. The probiotic in this recipe is yogurt or kefir.
After the probiotic/prebiotic base, let’s add some fruit to make this a complete meal, my favorite combination is mango, strawberry, and just a little orange juice, although many times I don’t add the orange juice.
- One cup of plain yogurt or kefir, make sure they only contain milk and cultures, any additive is a sign of a poor quality.
- A half of a ripe banana
- A half of teaspoon of ACV. You can go up to two teaspoons if you like the taste, most of the people like it.
- One or two teaspoons of honey
- One teaspoon to one spoon acacia gum. If you never had acacia gum before, start with one teaspoon, and slowly increase the dose.
- A quarter or less of a ripe sweet mango
- 4 small to medium strawberries
- 4 – 6 tablespoons of orange juice, (this can be omitted)
- Add everything into a blender and blend until smooth.
- Add the strawberries at the end, so that the strawberry seeds don’t get pulverized in the shake.
Post by Sarah